ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY

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by Stephen Kealy

Stephen Kealy

It is always interesting and enjoyable to watch youngsters use electronic equipment with such ease, with no inhibition in finding out how a particular piece of hardware (with its accompanying software) works—maybe with lots of trial and error, but focused on achieving their goal. Children as young as 18 months are enthralled by a single switch operation on an iPad or other electronic devices.

Looking at students at a university lecture highlights the ubiquitous importance of the laptop. Many National Schools have multimedia available in the classroom and many pupils have access to iPads or laptops. The potential of technology is quickly being explored in every educational, social and community setting. To underestimate its importance and relevance to people with intellectual and other disabilities would be a serious error of judgement that could possibly be expressed in a reluctance to fund greater learning and independence options for them. This issue of Frontline has the theme of assistive technology. It only scratches the surface of its enormous possibilities for the disability community, the elderly and for people who are vulnerable for other reasons.

Louise Neary and Claire Quinn’s article on palliative care highlights the need to provide a personalised approach for people with intellectual disability who are nearing the end of their lives. Some people with intellectual disabilities need hospice care; some services address this need, but a lot more need to do so.

Referenced in the Inclusion notes is an interesting development in the Oireachtas, TD Finian McGrath’s private member’s bill seeking the right, without having to go through a resource-expensive process, to receive additional teaching hours for pupils with Down Syndrome. There is an enormous amount of international research filling many library shelves that highlights the difficulties that children with Down Syndrome experience with communication and language expression and, in particular, the type of teaching and supports that are so important to helping them to live more independent lives. However, a diagnosis of Down Syndrome does not mean each child’s needs are exactly the same and assessment of those needs will ensure that those children with more complex needs receive sufficient resources to participate fully in a learning environment. Hopefully Finian McGrath’s initiative will eventually be expressed in a Department of Education circular recognising what is already so well known internationally.

In January 2015 Frontline will become primarily a web-based publication. It has become an increasing challenge to produce the print magazine for a limited number of subscribers. Electronic publication will considerably reduce costs, while reaching a much wider and more interactive readership. As yet, no decision has been taken on the cost, if any, of subscription for the new format. The change will hopefully be quite seamless, and we will keep subscribers alerted to how the project progresses during the coming months. Meanwhile, you can be assured that Issues 95, 96 and 97 will still arrive to you in the familiar printed format.

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